NH woman pleads guilty to federal gun charges in scheme to export guns and ammo to Thailand
CONCORD - A Newmarket woman who ran an online shopping site pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal gun charges involving the sale of eight firearms.
Nutveena Sirirojnananont faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1 million for ordering eight guns online that she had delivered to Suds N Soda Sports, a federally licensed firearms dealer in Greenland. After purchasing the guns there, she later sent them individually to go-betweens in California, Florida and New York who shipped them to two men who said they were in Thailand.
From August 2010 through September 2011, Sirirojnananont sold the guns - a Beretta, model Bobcat, .22 caliber pistol; two North American Arms, model Pug, .22 caliber pistols; three North American Arms, model Pug, .22 caliber revolvers; a Smith & Wesson, model 640 .357 caliber revolver; a Glock model G17, 9 mm pistol - to Paisarn Nakam for 15 percent more than the purchase price.
According to court papers, she also admitted to buying and shipping three semi-automatic lower receivers for a 5.56 rifle and ammunition to an individual named Veerawat Pilawan.
Sirirojnananont operated an export business in Portsmouth which shipped beauty supplies and fashion items to Thailand. The business was incorporated under the name Nutveena LLC and she operated a website called cheapshop4you.com and an EBAY business called the PookyWookyShop.
The gun purchases caught the attention of ATF special agent Daniel Futrell in August of 2011 when he was reviewing multiple sales reports and noticed Sirirojnananont had bought multiple firearms from the Greenland gun shop. He learned she bought them from an online dealer who sent them to Suds N Soda for pickup by her.
When she bought them, she was required to complete an ATF form for each purchase, which indicated she bought 11 firearms, including eight handguns and three semi-automatic lower receivers.
Sirirojnananont, when interviewed by Futrell and ATF special agent John Forte, admitted making the purchases and lying on the form because she was buying the guns for Nakam and Pilawan, not for herself. She did it because she wanted to make a profit, she told the agents, even thought she knew it was illegal to export guns and ammunition without a license.
She told investigators Nakam called her in 2010, after finding her number on her website, and asked her to buy the guns and ship them to him. Initially, she refused but later changed her mind after Nakam agreed to use an employee of his as a go-between courier. She agreed to the deal because she wanted to sell the guns and not get caught, she told the agents.
Nakam went online, found the guns he wanted and then emailed the links to her. He then wired the money to her bank in Thailand and she used her Bangkok Bank ATM card to withdraw the money and transfer it into her Citizens Bank account. Once the online purchase was complete, Nakam ordered a metal box with a combination from Amazon.com and mailed it to Sirirojnananont with a new combination.
They used the boxes to prevent the go-between from seeing what was inside, she told the agents.
She also admitted to selling firearms and ammunition to Pilawan, saying she sent 10 shipments of ammunition, three 5.56 mm rifle lower receivers and firearm parts directly to a post office box in Bangkok, Thailand.
She also said she made purchases for Paweena Pechner for a 5 percent fee that included the purchase of ammunition which, in September 2011 when the agents interviewed her, was still in her basement waiting for Pechner to pick it up. Futrell seized the shipment, which consisted of six large boxes containing 21 cases of ammunition and two magazines. He also confiscated two other firearms that were on hold at the Greenland gun shop - one for Sirirojnananont and the other for Pechner.
Court documents do not address why the Thailand residents were eager to buy U.S. made guns, which are popular in the Asian country but expensive.
According to a Reuters news article from October 2012, under Thai law, people under 20 cannot own a gun and strict background checks must be conducted before licenses are issued.
Despite that, the number of young people carrying firearms has increased 32 percent over the last nine years, said Thailand's Justice Ministry.
Thailand has the highest number of guns in civilian hands in Southeast Asia -- almost four times more than the Philippines, a country notorious for violent gun crime, according to Reuters.
A CNN news report from January 2012, said expats and other foreigners working in Thailand can buy guns, but import taxes of around 30 percent -- plus hefty retail profits -- discourage most foreigners.
"Not many foreigners buy guns in Thailand because the price is really expensive, compared to the United States and other countries, because of our importing quota and taxes," said the Firearms Association of Thailand's director of international relations, Polpatr Tanomsup.
"Guns are really expensive, so it is considered a sport for the rich. Like cars, and stuff like that. It is like a Louis Vuitton for guys, or a Hermes bag for guys," he said.
"Let's say a Glock in America costs US$500. After it comes here to Thailand, it will probably cost up to 75,000 baht [$2,500]."
Guns are costly because Thailand does not have a major firearms industry, and instead imports most weapons, according to the CNN report.
"The federal regulations involving the sale and export of firearms are specifically designed to prevent guns and other weapons from falling into the wrong hands," said Bruce Foucart, special agent in charge for ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Boston. "This case clearly demonstrates that we are aligned with our federal and local law enforcement partners, including the men and women of the ATF and Portsmouth Police Department. Together, we will continue to target those who attempt to profit by circumventing these laws."
Sirirojnananont pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), making a false statement in connection with a firearm purchase and unlicensed firearms dealing.